Auto thieves after Escalades' bling

Those chrome rims on your Escalade may be turning heads on the road, but they're also catching the attention of auto thieves.

Liane Yvkoff
Liane Yvkoff is a freelance writer who blogs about cars for CNET Car Tech. E-mail Liane.
Liane Yvkoff
2 min read
The Cadillac Escalade tops the HLDI's list of most frequently stolen vehicle.

Those chrome rims on your Escalade may be turning heads on the road, but they're also catching the attention of auto thieves. The Cadillac Escalade is once again at the top of the list of the most frequently stolen new vehicles, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute's (HDLI) recent findings. The Escalade has been at the top of the list for most of the decade too.

The problem isn't that the SUV is easy to steal--it's equipped with several antitheft features, such as Path III, an engine immobilizer technology that requires an encoded key to start the engine. Its steering column lock prevents the wheel from turning if it's moved more than a few degrees without a key in the ignition, and the newer models include laminated windows with a sheet of vinyl between two layers of glass, which are harder to shatter.

The Escalade's biggest weakness is that it's the vehicle of choice for athletes and Hollywood stars, according to Russ Rader, spokesperson for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery, and theft is an easy way to achieve it. Boosters are after the Escalade's expensive interiors, infotainment systems (oftentimes an expensive custom job), and custom wheels that could be used to add bling to lesser SUVs, says Rader. Almost one of every four Escalade theft claims is for $40,000 or more, according to the organization's latest findings.

The other newer model SUVs and cars on the top-10 lists are popular with the export market, says Radar. American brands may have faltered domestically, but they're flourishing abroad if thefts are a measure of their popularity. Of the top-10 list, four are American SUVs, two are pickups, and two are sports cars (although the HDLI technically lists the Dodge Charger with a Hemi as a large family car). Basically, car thieves are after big, powerful trucks and SUVs. The Nissan Pathfinder and the Infiniti G37 are the only foreign car brands on the list.

If your car is on that list, there is little the manufacturers can do technology-wise to prevent theft.

"The fact is that if someone wants to steal a vehicle, they'll find a way to steal it," says Nick Twork. "Antitheft devices keep honest people honest."

If you really don't want to worry about someone stealing your car, buy a Volvo S80. Besides being among the safest cars on the road, it's also one of the least-stolen vehicles.